Number Four Nuclear Power Plant Referendum: Process vs. Results
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 12, 2013
Summary: The appeal of the anti-nuclear camp slogan "I am human. I am
anti-nuclear" is simple and powerful. But it condemns anyone who
dissents. It morally impugns anyone who thinks differently. It hinders
debate and communication. It turns the referendum into a war between
"humans" and "sub-humans." This is hardly consistent with respect for
science and reason. The ruling and opposition parties must be
more open-minded. They must not care only about winning. After all, the
consequences must be borne by everyone.
Full text below:
The fate of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant (4NPP) will be determined through a public referendum. This may mislead people into thinking that is the purpose of the referendum. People may conclude that the referendum is merely a showdown between those who favor and oppose the 4NPP, and that whoever has the numbers, will get their way. In fact, the referendum process is more important that the results. Only dissent and debate can lead to a referendum result consistent with the greater good. Only that can ensure that those who failed to get their way will not feel aggrieved and endlessly complain.
Alas, the Ma administration and the anti-nuclear camp have yet to engage in much in-depth debate. Nor have they contributed to rational debate among the public. Taipower's report is still filled with jargon. It fails to answer public doubts in plain language. Anti-nuke activists persist in their monotonous "I am human. I am anti-nuke." rhetoric. They refuse to acknowledge how difficult it is to develop alternative energy sources. The Ma administration's first wave of propaganda reeked of political calculation. It accused Green Camp elders of flip-flopping. This may expose the two-faced nature of the Democratic Progressive Party. But it fails to address larger public concerns.
Concern only for the outcome of the referendum is bound to undermine rational debate. Both the ruling and opposition parties have committed the same mistakes. The Ma administration has yet to offer any framework-oriented talking points. Instead, it blindly attacks the anti-nuclear groups, without any consideration for the results. This approach is unlikely to be effective. Environmental groups or the Mothers League are unlikely to change their positions. Government attempts to reach out have repeatedly been rebuffed. This merely fuels anti-nuclear sentiment. Conversely, the anti-nuclear camp may enjoy considerable public support. They have repeatedly questioned Taipower's moral posture. But they have yet to tour the 4NPP, and refuse to do so. When they hold talks with government officials, they blindly harp on whether the government is "merely patting them on the head." Such attitudes leave the impression that they are preoccupied with moral posturing, and myopically ignoring the need to cope with the harsh realities of Taiwan.
The 4NPP referendum process is more important than the results. Why? Because only rational debate can lead to a rational outcome. Making a choice is easy. Thinking is not. A choice made without thinking is dangerous. This is true regardless of whether one is anti-nuke or pro-nuke.
Before one votes on whether to halt or continue construction on the 4NPP, one should ask a number of questions. One. Security considerations. Can the government and Taipower safely operate the 4NPP for four decades? Have they improved the facilities or increased supervision to ensure safe operation? Two. Alternatives. Taiwan is taking the non-nuclear road. Sooner or later, alternative energy sources must be found. What will the energy supply consist of? Can they realistically be implemented? Three. Responsibility for the consequences. Those who urge continued construction of the 4NPP must assume responsibility for its safety. By the same token, those who demand halting construction on the 4NPP must assume responsibility for electricity rate increases, for power outages, for weakened economic competitiveness, even damage to the environment resulting from the adoption of other forms of power. Can the public on Taiwan withstand the impact of these changes?
A full debate must take place. People must understand what changes the existing energy supply will undergo. They must understand that the percentage of renewable energy will have to be increased. They must understand that their daily lives and industrial development will be impacted. They must accept increased electricity rates, no matter how high. Providing the public understands this before it scraps the 4NPP and takes Taiwan in a new direction, it should be considered a positive development. The fear is that the two sides will resort to fear-mongering and baseless accusations. The fear is that once construction on the 4NPP is halted, no alternative energy sources will be available. The fear is that the public will not be able to tolerate increased electricity rates, and will complain about power shortages. Industries may even need to relocate. In that case, the referendum will be a formula for disaster.
If one cares only about results, Chen Shui-bian could claim to be an "anti-nuclear prophet." When everyone was high on anti-nuke euphoria, he ordered a halt on 4NPP construction. But because construction on the 4NPP was halted and restarted, few believe it is safe. In other words, Chen Shui-bian planted the seeds of disaster -- precisely because he hastily ordered a construction halt. His actions led to punitive damages for breach of contract, added costs, and changes in the design. No one knows how it will end.
The appeal of the anti-nuclear camp slogan "I am human. I am anti-nuclear" is simple and powerful. But it condemns anyone who dissents. It morally impugns anyone who thinks differently. It hinders debate and communication. It turns the referendum into a war between "humans" and "sub-humans." This is hardly consistent with respect for science and reason.
The ruling and opposition parties must be more open-minded. They must not care only about winning. After all, the consequences must be borne by everyone.
2013.04.12 03:04 am